Weekend Preview 27/01/17


French Ligue 1
PSG vs. Monaco (Sunday 8pm)
This weekend’s headline game comes from France, where reigning champions PSG host the immense Monaco, who after 20 games of the season are still averaging an incredible 3.05 goals per game. PSG themselves are more than a whole goal behind on 1.95, with the even more surprising number being that Monaco away outscore PSG at home 2.6 to 2.4. All of this sets up a mouth watering contest, with the big question being whether Monaco are the real deal or whether PSG will slap them down with an authoritative performance to draw level with them on 48 points.

Analysing the contest from every angle we see PSG without right-back Aurier but recovering left-back Kurzawa, while Monaco are again at full strength. Our Analyst Fair Form has them both 5/5 for wins at home and away, respectively, meaning it’s a real shock to see Monaco at 1.80 off a +1 handicap, especially when the draw is an excellent result for the visitors. In addition to this there could be some value in a typical pairing with Overs, with 2.75 available at 1.89. We believe the line should be closer to 3, as a goal either way should open things up significantly.

Recommendation: Monaco +1 @ 1.80 and Over 2.75 @ 1.89

German Bundesliga 1
RB Leipzig vs. Hoffenheim (Saturday 2.30pm)
The two surprise packages of this Bundesliga season meet for the second time, following their 2-2 draw in the reverse fixture way back at the end of August. At that point in the campaign not many people would have predicted that they would be second and third in the table come late January, with Hoffenheim still unbeaten after 17 games and Leipzig not having lost at home. With all of this under consideration it’s a little jarring to see a line of -0.75 on the hosts, though the line does hold up quite well under decent scrutiny.

Our Analyst Fair Form in particular pointing to the fact that Leipzig are more consistently deserving of their results than Hoffenheim. Everything else is split evenly, meaning that there is inherent value in backing Hoffenheim (they can be had +1 for 1.73), while the Total Goals line of 2.75 looks perfectly pitched to us, if a tiny bit too high. Whatever the outcome this one should be good viewing and as a result we’ll take a cautious approach.

Recommendation: Hoffenheim +1 @ 1.73

Italian Serie A
Torino vs. Atalanta (Sunday 11.30am)
There have been a lot of fun games for Torino fans this season, with their side averaging 3.4 total goals per game so far. Visitors Atalanta are not especially goal-shy either, with 2.54 seen on the road to date. Naturally the expectation here would be on a line set at around 3, especially with Torino recovering 14-goal top scorer Belotti from suspension. However, the market currently has it pitched at 2.5 pushing 2.25, which looks well off to us.

One word of caution is that key defensive midfielder Kessie is back from the Africa Cup of Nations for the visitors to improve their overall solidity, but even accounting for this the line should be 2.75 at the least. Both teams will fancy their chances of victory, which should mean that the intensity stays high regardless of who scores first. The contest is evenly matched enough to deserve the -0.25 handicap.

Recommendation: Over 2.5 @ 2.01

Spanish Primera Division
Espanyol vs. Sevilla (Sunday 3.15pm)
Sevilla followed-up the late win over Real Madrid with a helter-skelter 3-4 victory away to Osasuna last weekend, further cementing themselves between the big two in Spain. Last season they would not have broken a sweat about this trip, but under Sanchez Flores Espanyol are a very different proposition. We don’t have much love for the 0.25 handicap, although we think it should be 0.5, but we do think the goals is currently off – especially with Nasri back for Sevilla and Vitolo expected to be on the bench. Currently over 2.5 can be bough for 1.95 and we price the game closer to 3.25 before the late team news, which means we have pretty strong conviction here despite the expected cautious approach of the hosts.

Recommendation: Over 2.5 @ 1.95

French Ligue 1
Nice vs. Guingamp (Sunday 2pm)
It was always likely that Nice would drop off, but they are now in a fun of form where they’ve won one in five and are finding goals increasingly hard to come by. Guingamp have lesser expectations but similarly over-performed in the first half of the season, meaning that a standard home line of -0.5 is no real surprise to see here. However, it’s key to note Nice’s volatile team news, with star midfielder Seri, first choice goalkeeper Cardinale, starting centre-back Baysse and the creative Eysseric all 50/50 doubts. If the former two miss out, then we’d take Guingamp +0.5.

Recommendation: N/A

Ones to Watch

Italian Serie A
Sampdoria vs. Roma (Sunday 2pm)
There’s no doubt that Roma struggle without Salah and last weekend was another instance of them not being able to beat the handicap with the winger absent. Despite Sampdoria being 16th they have a good home record and will provide a very stern test, despite missing Viviano and Sala again.

Recommendation: Sampdoria +1 @ 1.70

English Championship
Queens Park Rangers vs. Burton Albion (Saturday 3pm)
Another big relegation battle in the Championship sees QPR priced at -0.5 in front of their own fans, but the team news favours Burton with top scorer Irvine returning and the line looks a little wide based on that. Still, it’s not quite wide enough to consider this as viable.

Recommendation: N/A

Scottish Premiership
Celtic vs. Hearts (Sunday 1pm)
The Champions ground out a 1-0 over hardy St. Johnstone in midweek and have a different type of home game to contend with here. Hearts will be a little bit more open, but not enough to warrant being available at +1.75. Celtic are always dangerous, but goals not coming easily.

Recommendation: Hearts +1.75 @ 1.90

German Bundesliga 2
Wurzburger Kickers vs. Eintracht Braunschweig (Saturday 12pm)
German’s second flight returns after winter break, with the pick of the games seeing leaders Braunschweig heading to sixth-placed Wurzburg. This looks a very stern test after a long rest period, with the market pricing DNB but perhaps even underestimating the hosts. Braunschweig are not at all great when away.

Recommendation: Wurzburger Kickers DNB @ 1.99

Greek Super League
Xanthi vs. AEK Athens (Saturday 5.30pm)
Our final stop is Greece, where second-place Xanthi host AEK and have excellent team news with a trio of first choice players returning. They really should be decent favourites based on the fact they are at absolute full strength, but can currently be had at DNB for better than evens.

Recommendation: Xanthi DNB @ 2.01

*Odds accurate at time of writing

Chance Conversion Rates in Europe’s Top Five Leagues

With only six points separating Arsenal in second and Manchester United in sixth in this season’s English Premier League, a place in the top four may even come down to goal difference. As we are past the halfway mark of the season now, I thought it would be an appropriate time to take a look at the notion of consistency, and in particular how this season’s chance conversion rates compare to last season’s.

Conversion rates are typically calculated as a ratio of total goals scored over total chances, and have been a long established metric in the footballing world. Putting the ball away at the first time of asking will result in a better conversion rate, while squandering chances before scoring will result in a poorer conversion rate.

For this piece, I’m going to focus on teams from Europe’s “top five” leagues, namely the English Premier League, Spanish La Liga, German Bundesliga 1, Italian Serie A and French Ligue 1. I’ve pulled data from the 2nd of August 2015 to the 22nd of January 2017 to give a perspective of consistency over a season and half. So, let’s start by taking a high level look across all five leagues from last season and the current season so far, in order to help us distinguish between the “clinical” sides and the “wasteful” ones.



The above figures plot Goals (x-axis) and Chances (y-axis) for each team across Europe’s top five leagues, while the size of the circles illustrate conversion rate. The larger the circle, the better the conversion rate. To iterate this, I’ve plotted a white line down the middle of the graphics; teams above (to the left of) the line are more efficient (higher conversion rate/bigger circle) than the average, whilst teams below (to the right of) the line are less efficient (lower conversion rate/smaller circle). In other words, the closer a team is to the top left of the figure, the more clinical they are. Whilst the closer a team is to the bottom right, the more wasteful they are.

The most striking fact about last season (see 2015/16 graphic) is the attacking power of Barcelona, Real Madrid and PSG last season. This trio stand head and shoulders above the rest of the European clubs, thanks to scoring a combined total of 324 goals from a grand total of 945 chances. At the bottom end of the scale, Aston Villa’s woeful campaign is summed up their position on the scatter plot, sitting at the bottom of all of Europe’s top five league clubs with a mere 27 goals (albeit with a respectable conversion rate of 26% from their 104 chances). Villa are joined by Germany’s Hannover 96 (30% conversion rate), Spain’s Real Betis (29%), Italy’s Bologna (28%) and France’s Troyes (17%).

It is refreshing to see this season’s (see 2016/17 graphic) landscape differ significantly though, as the Barcelona and Real Madrid are joined by a host of Europe’s top clubs, including Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Napoli. Monaco have had a season to remember so far, outscoring everyone in Europe with a total of 60 goals from 228 chances, giving them a conversion rate of 26% (the best in Europe this season, way ahead of joint second place RB Leipzig and Sevilla’s 19%, who we’ll discuss in more detail later on).

Now let’s dive into each league specifically and take a closer look at each team’s performance over the two seasons:

English Premier League



Last season can be grouped into three clusters; (1) teams who scored 59 goals or more and finished in the top 10 (with the exceptions of Manchester United, Stoke and Everton), (2) mid-table teams who scored 34-48 goals (again barring Everton in this group), and (3) Aston Villa. Of the top four, Arsenal finished the season with the worst conversion rate (28% or 65 goals from 234 chances), whilst Manchester City lead the top four race of being most clinical with a conversion rate of 34% (71 goals from 208 chances). However, across the whole league, Liverpool topped the chart for being the most clinical (35%, 63 goals from 182 chances), while a special mention should go to Sunderland for their conversion rate of 35% coming through their 48 goals from 91 chances to stay up! All hail Defoe.

The current season already looks more dispersed, with two potential clusters emerging at the halfway point. Of the top group, Arsenal have apparently worked on their finishing from last season and now have the best conversion rate in the league (18%, 48 goals from 270 chances), whilst Chelsea are also looking like their old selves again (17% conversion rate, 45 goals from 269 chances). Tottenham and Man City maintain their consistent attacking form from last season and remain at the right end of the scatter, whilst current champions Leicester City drop to the bottom cluster (12% conversion rate, 24 goals from 192 chances), effectively swapping positions with Chelsea as many predicted they would. Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool may have scored the most goals this season, but they fall just short of Arsenal and Chelsea with a conversion rate of 16% (51 goals from 317 chances).

The least clinical teams this season are Southampton (7% conversion, 19 goals from 263 chances) and Manchester United (10% conversion, 33 goals from 325 chances), whereas last season West Brom unfortunately had the worst conversion rate with 23% (34 goals from 147 chances).

Spanish La Liga



Barcelona and Real Madrid have always stood out in Spain’s La Liga. This is epitomised by last season’s graphic, where both teams form a cluster of their own thanks to scoring over a 100 goals each with a conversion rate of 34% and 37% respectively. However, last season saw Las Palmas top the conversion rate ranking with 38%, scoring 45 goals from their 120 chances. Indeed, while Barcelona may have looked like one of two deadly teams in La Liga, Granada beat their conversion rate (36%, 46 goals from 128 chances), whilst Sporting Gijon and Deportivo La Coruna matched the Catalan club’s conversion rate (40 from 118 and 45 from 134 respectively).

This season we again see a more dispersed pattern appearing, as although Barcelona (18%) and Real Madrid (17%) still lead the way for goals scored, Sevilla have been the most clinical, scoring 38 goals from 197 chances (19%). This is striking, as Sevilla had the fourth-worst conversion rate last season! Espanyol also join the top band with a conversion rate of 17% (25 goals from 147 chances), whilst newly promoted Leganes have the worst conversion rate with 9% (15 from 168).

German Bundesliga 1



Last season’s German Bundesliga 1 shows a similar pattern to Spain’s top league, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund way ahead of the pack (conversion rates of 33% and 34% respectively). However, Gladbach had the best conversion rate in the league with 38% (67 goals from 177 chances). Bayer Leverkusen also boasted a better conversion rate than Bayern Munich with 34% (56 from 166), whilst Hertha matched them with 33% (42 from 126). Stuttgart and Ingolstadt shared the worst conversion rate of 28% (50 from 179 and 38 from 133 respectively).

The current season again looks more dispersed – Dortmund still top the league for goals scored (37 from 200) but RB Leipzig come into the fold, boasting the best conversion rate in the league (19%, 34 goals from 176 chances). Impressively, Hertha maintain their strong clinical performance in front of goal, and this time better Bayern Munich with a conversion rate of 18% (24 from 136), as do Mainz (17%, 26 from 152). Darmstadt 98 sit at the bottom of the table with 8% of their chances converted to goals, whilst Augsburg are joined once again by Ingolstadt (9% each).

Italian Serie A



Italy’s Serie A last season also appears to have two clusters, with Roma, Napoli and Juventus hitting the heights for goals scored. However, in terms of efficiency, Fiorentina sit at the summit, boasting 60 goals from 147 chances (41% conversion). Roma followed the Florence club Roma by scoring 82 goals from 208 chances (40%), whilst Sassuolo also boasted a better conversion rate than Juventus (39% versus The Old Lady’s 38%). Last season’s worst performers were Hellas Verona, who were relegated in the end, and Udinese, who managed to survive the drop (24%, 33 from 137 and 35 from 144 respectively).

This season we again see a more dispersed pattern, and whilst Napoli still top the league for goals scored, They hold the fourth best conversion rate at 15%, falling short to (1) Cagliari (18%, 31 from 175); (2) Juventus (16%, 40 from 252); and (3) Torino (16%, 38 from 245). Sassuolo can once again boast a league impressive conversion rate (14%, 30 from 212) so far beating last year’s most clinical team Fiorentina (13%, 33 from 245). Udinese are having a better season this time around, as the teams at the bottom of the conversion table are Pescara (7%, 13 from 184), Empoli (8%, 11 from 142), Crotone and Sampdoria (9%, 14 from 153 and 22 from 236 respectively).

France Ligue 1



Last season was all about PSG, who scored 102 goals from their 318 chances (32%). However, they were closely followed by Bastia (31%, 36 from 116), Nice (31%, 58 from 187) and Guingamp (30%, 47 from 155). At the other end of the table, relegated Troyes converted 17% of their chances (28 from 165), whilst Nantes (19%, 33 from 175) and Marseille (20%, 48 from 238), who had the second and third worst conversion rates, survived the drop. Interestingly, Reims were relegated despite boasting a very respectable league conversion rate of 28% (44 from 158), bettering that of both Nantes and Marseille.

This season we once again see a much more dispersed pattern, with Monaco setting impossibly high standards. They’ve so far managed 60 goals from their 228 chances, setting an unrivalled conversion rate of 26%, way ahead of Nice (16%, 35 from 216), PSG (15%, 41 from 282) and Lyon (14%, 36 from 258). This goes some way to explaining why people have had so much joy backing Monaco and Overs this season, while Guingamp are also having a fine campaign and are sitting in fifth place, again boasting a respectable conversion rate with 13% (27 from 208). Nantes haven’t appeared to worked on their finishing ability, as they sit at the bottom of the conversion rate table having converted only 7% of their chances (14 from 212), alongside Angers SCO (16 from 216).


So far in the current season, the leagues look a lot more dispersed than last season, with teams such as Sevilla and Leipzig coming in to shake up the status quo. This highlights how one summer can change so much in football; Sevilla held the fourth-worst conversion rate last season but now are the most clinical team in La Liga; Leicester drop to the bottom cluster of the Premier League, as their ability to find the net diminishes (or reverts to mean, depending on which line of thought you follow), whilst Arsenal now boast the best conversion rate in the league after being branded as “wasteful” last season1 and changing their team relatively little from last season.

Furthermore, Gladbach now have the fourth-worst conversion rate in the Bundesliga, and they’ve so far been unable to maintain their high finishing standards from last season. New boys RB Leipzig could be German football’s fairy-tale if they maintain their strong conversion rate. Whilst the big teams will always boast a strong conversion rate given the number of chances they create and quality of players they have. Finally, other teams such as Germany’s Hertha, Italy’s Sassuolo and France’s Guingamp have shown a consistently good conversion rate over the year and a half, meaning they should all continue to perform steadily.

So it seems conversion rates are a fickle mistress, because while they can tell us something of great value “in the moment” the difficulty comes when trying to predict conversion rates over time, especially when considering the impact transfers, injuries and managerial change can have on the performance of squads. Until we can accurately do that we have to treat this metric with some care, understanding that things may revert to mean over differing time periods but are likely to be impacted by far more random factors. For now we can assume as long as the squads remain relatively intact and little changes on the managerial front, then the conversion rates on display will not change too drastically between now and the end of the season. Indeed, in my next post I might just take a look into how line-up consistency correlates with chance creation and chance conversion.

Until then, anyone for a bet on Monaco to win Ligue 1, Arsenal to win the Premier League, or RB Leipzig to finish top two in Bundesliga 1?

Sagar Jilka (@DrSagarJilka)

  1. http://www.skysports.com/football/news/15118/10189870/wasteful-arsenals-premier-league-title-hopes-hit-by-poor-finishing

* Correct at time of analysis

Weekend Review – 24/01/17



English Premier League
Manchester City 2-2 Tottenham Hotspur (Saturday 5.30pm)
The big game of the weekend didn’t disappoint, with both the Actual Score and Fair Score showing that it was deserving of four goals. However, the outcomes of both were vastly different, with Spurs somehow grabbing a 2-2 draw in actuality without ever looking convincing. The 3-4-2-1 didn’t work against City’s bold 4-1-4-1 and even a switch back to their more familiar 4-2-3-1 barely made a difference, with Guardiola’s side constantly finding gaps and looking capable of inflicting serious damage. They got to 2-0 soon after half time, having somehow entered the break level, but still managed to throw it away.

At the 0 game state chance creation was tilted towards the hosts, though crucially they did not manage to create anything better than a Very Good Chance (~25% conversion), and indeed only had one of these. Otherwise they had a trio of Goods (~15% conversion) and a quartet of Fairly Goods (~8% conversion), showing that they were at least worth a 1-0 by the interval. Tottenham scored twice despite only creating four chances in total, though the ones they scored were Great (~40% conversion) and Very Good. Being efficient even when playing poorly in every other respect can obviously pay big dividends, but Pochettino’s men got away with one here and also benefitted from the solitary controversial decision in the game when it was 2-0.

Recommendation: Tottenham Hotspur +0.5 @ 1.87
Actual Outcome: +1 (2-2)
Fair Outcome: -1 (3-1)

Italian Serie A
Milan 1-2 Napoli (Saturday 7.45pm)
This one really exploded into life and would have had anybody backing overs salivating after just nine minutes, when the visitors led 0-2 thanks to Insigne and Callejon. Milan looked shell-shocked and were fortunate to not find themselves three behind when Mertens missed a Great Chance on 29 minutes. Still, the home side recovered from there, making a Great Chance of their own six minutes later, before redressing the deficit before the break through Kucka to see the 2.75 goal line pay out half.

Surprisingly, this is where things stayed, though, in a second period where neither side wanted to commit too much and where chance creation slowed despite the home side trailing. Milan managed to create a solitary Very Good after half time, but Napoli missed the biggest opportunity when Mertens was again wasteful in front of goal. After this point came a raft of substitutions that did nothing to aid momentum, the home side going down with a whimper to condemn us to a loss on the +0.5. We stopped out of the goals altogether and though it looked like a huge missed opportunity early on, both the Actual Score and Fair Score had this at three total.

Recommendation: Milan +0.5 @ 1.89
Actual Outcome: -1 (1-2)
Fair Outcome: -1 (1-2)

French Ligue 1
Olympique Lyonnais 3-1 Olympique Marseille (Sunday 8pm)
It can be very difficult to predict which Lyon is going to turn up, which is why we wanted nothing to do with lines of -0.75 and 2.75. Our lean was to work a combination of Marseille +1 and overs, which would have seen us advocating a small loss, so it proved the right thing to do to stay away. In the end it was hard to argue with the outcome, as Valbuena sent the hosts into the interval ahead and Lacazette put them into a commanding position on the hour mark.

Marseille had shown very little by this juncture but were forced to react, bringing in Lopez and Sarr for Cabella and Allesandrini and being rewarded instantaneously when Doria scored to make it 2-1. From here it looked like they could go all the way to a 2-2, but Lacazette robbed Rolando and finished it off very coolly, giving Lyon a deserved win. They showed more intent and cutting edge throughout, with Marseille improving under Garcia but still having a long way to go.

Recommendation: N/A
Actual Outcome: N/A (3-1)
Fair Outcome: N/A (3-1)

English Championship
Brighton & Hove Albion 2-1 Sheffield Wednesday (Friday 7.45pm)
This was notable for a truly remarkable double save, as Stockdale denied Forestieri from the penalty spot before twisting in spectacular style to prevent him from tucking home the rebound. That looked to be a huge moment in the race for promotion, with Wednesday matching Brighton every step of the way and seeming set for a huge win when the hosts were reduced to ten men with half an hour left to play.

They certainly had their chances to take the lead, but momentum soon waned and after Stockdale’s brilliance they seemed to lose belief as Brighton grew in stature. Knockaert, the game’s standout player, then made the breakthrough to win it, before things descended into farce and Fletcher saw red before Hutchinson followed him down the tunnel. Brighton covered the handicap and the overs came in, but the way events unfolded meant we felt good being out of it.

Recommendation: N/A
Actual Outcome: N/A (2-1)
Fair Outcome: N/A (1-1)

Turkish Super Lig
Fenerbahce 1-0 Istanbul Basaksehir (Sunday 4pm)
We have a tendency to call Basaksehir the “Turkish Leicester” around the office and we genuinely thought they could grab a win despite their plus handicap, so had no hesitation in recommending them. The game proved to be as tight and evenly matched as we expected, with no chance better than a Good ever being created. Fenerbahce edged it by the slightest of margins and grabbed a 1-0, but our Analyst Fair Score believed it to be a 0-0 contest. Ultimately this was one of those games where the result matched the handicap perfectly, so we cannot have any complaints, and it must be said that Fenerbahce saw the game out quite comfortably, Basaksehir having only a solitary Fairly Good Chance in the second half.

Recommendation: Istanbul Basaksehir +0.5 @ 1.96
Actual Outcome: -1 (1-0)
Fair Outcome: +1 (0-0)

Dutch Eredivisie
PSV 4-3 Heerenveen (Sunday 3.45pm)
It took an 89th and 90th minute goal for PSV to put Heerenveen to the sword, which meant we only had to endure a few nervy seconds waiting for our +1.5 recommendation to come in. This was yet another game where the early goal to the underdog really set the tone, with PSV taking some time to readjust but going on a tear from the 26th minute until the 43rd, creating 12 chances of note, including a Superb, a Great and four Very Goods! They left it late but they deserved to win, our Analyst giving them a two-goal margin.

Recommendation: Heerenveen +1.5 @ 1.94
Actual Outcome: +1 (4-3)
Fair Outcome: -1 (4-2)

Ones to Watch

Spanish Primera Division
Athletic Club 2-2 Atletico Madrid (Sunday 3.15pm)
When you get a third minute goal in a game where you have an unders bet then there’s nothing left to do but bite your nails and hope. In the end this one went well over 2.25 due to that early strike, although our Fair Score had it as 1-1.

Recommendation: Under 2.25 @ 1.86
Actual Outcome: -1 (2-2)
Fair Outcome: +0.5 (1-1)

German Bundesliga 1
Bayer Leverkusen 3-1 Hertha BSC (Sunday 2.30pm)
We did not like the look of the Asian Handicap on Leverkusen and ultimately steered clear, playing it safer with what we thought was a low goals line. Still, both the Actual Score and Fair Score had us covering this nicely, with the early home opener a big determining factor.

Recommendation: Over 2.25 @ 1.83
Actual Outcome: +1 (3-1)
Fair Outcome: +1 (2-1)

Italian Serie A
Juventus 2-0 Lazio (Sunday 11.30am)
Juventus should never be as low as -1 at home at the moment, unless they are beset by injuries. This was a routine a 2-0 win as could have been expected, with Dybala and Higuain striking early to take the sting out of a Lazio missing too many attacking weapons.

Recommendation: Juventus -1 @ 1.95
Actual Outcome: +1 (2-0)
Fair Outcome: +1 (2-0)

French Ligue 1
Nantes 0-2 PSG (Saturday 4pm)
The hosts managed to disrupt PSG for long periods here, but as soon as Cavani grabbed the opener on 21 minutes it looked a big ask for them to beat the +1.25 handicap. PSG produced a consistent display and created more and more as Nantes opened up, deserving the 0-2.

Recommendation: Nantes +1.25 @ 1.99
Actual Outcome: -1 (0-2)
Fair Outcome: -1 (0-2)

English Championship
Barnsley 3-2 Leeds (Saturday 5.30pm)
A hugely volatile and controversial Yorkshire Derby ended in a relatively surprise win for Barnsley, who we have had a lot of joy backing on overs but were a little sceptical of here after recent sales. We steered clear, but the difference between Actual Score and Fair Score is stark.

Recommendation: N/A (3-2)
Actual Outcome: N/A (3-2)
Fair Outcome: N/A (1-1)

Greek Super League
Olympiakos Piraeus 2-0 Xanthi (Saturday 5.30pm)
Our feeling that the -1.75 was impossible to justify proved to be way wrong, with Olympiakos just about covering the spread. They did so by virtue of creating the only Great Chance in the game and our Fair Score believed this to be a 1-0, which would have done nicely.

Recommendation: Xanthi +1.75 @ 2.00
Actual Outcome: -0.5 (2-0)
Fair Outcome: +1 (1-0)

9 Recommendations
Total Actual Outcome: -0.5
Total Fair Outcome: +0.5

Weekend Preview -20/01/17


English Premier League
Manchester City vs. Tottenham Hotspur (Saturday 5.30pm)
Both sides were involved in 4-0 games last weekend, with Man City getting a slightly undeserved battering at Everton while Tottenham were running riot at home to West Brom. This is fifth versus second and using seasonal pricing and supremacy numbers it’s easy to price this one at -0.25 in a sort of typical “big game” approach, where there’s not much to separate the two sides other than home advantage. However, when you start to look more at recent trends and especially team news, then it becomes clear that this is not the true price of the contest.

City have struggled badly at times this season, but the suspension of Fernandinho combined with untimely injuries to Gundogan and Fernando has really left them exposed defensively. In a game against a side operating in a new 3-4-2-1 formation where the exceptional Alli and Eriksen have freedom to move between the lines and drift wide, you really do not want to be relying on Toure and Zabaleta as your midfield pairing. Guardiola may opt against going down this road again, but even if he does switch things up then it’s difficult to make a case for City being half goal favourites. In addition to this the goal line of 2.5 looks on the short side, but not enough to make us confident in recommending an overs bet.

Recommendation: Tottenham Hotspur +0.5 @ 1.87

Italian Serie A
Milan vs. Napoli (Saturday 7.45pm)
Milan are exceptional at home, while Napoli have been surprisingly good away since the injury to Milik, meaning that this likely to be a hugely competitive fixture. The market has the line set at +0.5 on Milan, which looks off at first sight, with the seasonal supremacy showing that a -0.25 or DNB line would be more reasonable. Both teams have beaten a DNB line seven times when home and away, respectively, and even looking more recently it’s tough to split them with Milan beating the mark three out of five times and Napoli four.

All of this adds up to make us lean more heavily on our Fair Form and the team news, with the form edging Napoli a little bit and the news showing that both sides are missing key men. Romagnoli and Montolivo are absent for the hosts and Koulibaly, Ghoulam and, of course, Milik miss out for the visitors. De Sciglio is also a big doubt for Milan, which sees us the team news only slightly in favour of them. Ultimately this brings us back to believing it should be a DNB, which means we really like Milan +0.5. The total goals looks about perfect, however.

Recommendation: Milan +0.5 @ 1.89

French Ligue 1
Olympique Lyonnais vs. Olympique Marseille (Sunday 8pm)
Both teams come into the back of this one off losses, with Lyon’s being much more surprising than Marseille’s. The hosts fell 3-2 at Caen but were a little harshly done by, while Monaco did their usual trick of scoring four goals to down Garcia’s side in the Velodrome. As such, both come into this a little wounded having been on good runs before the break. Indeed, Lyon have won 3/5 at home and Marseille 2/5 away, although our Fair Score believes Lyon have been a little fortunate in that regard.

Looking at the lines we see -0.75 for Lyon, which is hard to argue with when considering seasonal supremacy, recent trends and team news that sees them without Ghezzal and possibly Diakhaby. Marseille have signed Sanson in a great move, but are still without Bedimo and N’Jie. We priced the goals at around 3, but see 2.75 as being a pretty reasonable natural line too, so will stop out of this entirely despite favouring Marseille +1 and the over 2.75 line as a combination.

Recommendation: N/A

English Championship
Brighton & Hove Albion vs. Sheffield Wednesday (Friday 7.45pm)
The home side are still firmly in the title race with Newcastle and are deserving favourites here, with -0.5 right about the perfect line when pricing this game in our usual manner. However, Wednesday are finally beginning to find their feet and have been stringing results together, climbing into the playoff places and being within touching distance of Leeds in third now. The visitors should play without fear, but this is an incredibly tough trip.

Their chances are enhanced with the recent signing of Winnall, who could be set to start up front as Hooper returns to the bench after injury, although Brighton receive a defensive boost with Dunk coming back from a ban. This should be a high quality contest in the context of the Championship, but the market has it absolutely nailed, with the line of between 2 and 2.25 on the total goals market also looking perfectly pitched.

Recommendation: N/A

Turkish Super Lig
Fenerbahce vs. Istanbul Basaksehir (Sunday 4pm)
Surprise league leaders Basaksehir have one of their biggest tests to date with a trip to Fenerbahce, who are deservedly unbeaten in their last six home matches. Basaksehir themselves are deservedly unbeaten in their last eight away, however, meaning that a line of -0.5 needs some explaining. Indeed, if betting off this mark on both teams all season then you would be down on Fenerbahce but hugely in profit on Basaksehir.

The visitors are at full strength, while the hosts had a quartet of first teamers missing last week, which points towards the fact that this should be a DNB line. With Fener’s reduced goal threat the total goals pitch of 2.25 is about right, with our pricing showing 2.5 before final team news adjustments.

Recommendation: Istanbul Basaksehir +0.5 @ 1.96

Dutch Eredivisie
PSV vs. Heerenveen (Sunday 3.45pm)
PSV have not been exciting this season, being involved in games that average just 1.55 goals at home. However, Heerenveen have seen a huge average of 3.44 when away, which means the total goals pricing is approached from opposite angles. Ultimately recent trends and team news mean that 3.25 is the fair mark, especially if St. Juste misses out again for the visitors, though it does surely depend on them scoring twice, based on PSV’s own output. We think PSV should be -1 at most, if the team news goes completely against Heerenveen, so we’ll back the underdog yet again.

Recommendation: Heerenveen +1.5 @ 1.94

Ones to Watch

Spanish Primera Division
Athletic Club vs. Atletico Madrid (Sunday 3.15pm)
Team news is against Athletic here, with Aduriz and Benat both absent due to suspensions. This takes away a chunk of their attacking threat, and they are already in a poor run of form. Due to that drop in expected goals and Atletico’s own inconsistency, we like the unders here.

Recommendation: Under 2.25 @ 1.86

German Bundesliga 1
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Hertha BSC (Sunday 2.30pm)
On first sight the handicap on Leverkusen looks way off, but they are recovering Aranguiz, Bellarabi and Volland, while Hertha are still without Weiser in addition to Kalou. Brooks and Langkamp do make it back, however, giving them something of a boost. 2.25 looks a bit short in this one.

Recommendation: Over 2.25 @ 1.83

Italian Serie A
Juventus vs. Lazio (Sunday 11.30am)
We are now at the point where every Juventus home game looks a foregone conclusion, but it’s interesting to see them only at -1 here, albeit against a Lazio side who have done well recently. However, with Lulic and Keita both absent we find it impossible to back the visitors.

Recommendation: Juventus -1 @ 1.95

French Ligue 1
Nantes vs. PSG (Saturday 4pm)
This doesn’t immediately jump out as a schedule highlight, but Nantes are a totally different animal under new boss Sergio Conceicao. He may have been a terrible cheat of a player, but he has his side motivated and running through walls, they seem to be too long at +1.25 here.

Recommendation: Nantes +1.25 @ 1.99

English Championship
Barnsley vs. Leeds (Saturday 5.30pm)
This should be a Yorkshire Derby with some real spice, with Leeds flying high in third and Barnsley involved in a number of ding-dongs already this season. The home side’s goal production has taken a big hit due to Winnall leaving, explaining the low-looking 2.5 line and Leeds’ favourites tag.

Recommendation: N/A

Greek Super League
Olympiakos Piraeus vs. Xanthi (Saturday 5.30pm)
Olympiakos have slipped up twice in their last two games, allowing Xanthi to gain four points on them. The visitors still find themselves eight back but a shock result here could throw some huge doubt into the title race. It’s impossible to justify the leaders at -1.75 against second place.

Recommendation: Xanthi +1.75 @ 2.00

*Odds accurate at time of writing

Which Premier League team will AFCON 2017 impact the most?

Every two years, Premier League clubs up and down the land face the prospect of losing some of their players to the Africa Cup of Nations. The thought of players leaving a club for an international tournament midway through the season can fill supporters with dread, particularly if those leaving are considered key. As a Portsmouth supporter, the African Nations wasn’t a competition I looked forward to during their Premier League years (which feels a lifetime ago), as it meant losing a number of important players at a vital juncture of the season.

This year, just 21 players from England’s top flight are making the trip to Africa, a number that may seem low, but is actually an increase on the 16 who were absent for the last tournament in 2015. The number could have even been higher had a handful not pulled out of their own accord (Joel Matip, Allan Nyom and Benik Afobe), while the failure of Nigeria to qualify limits the number going even further.

Eight clubs will be completely unaffected by the tournament and are not seeing any of their stars leave. Southampton did see Sofiane Boufal called up, but injury has curtailed his involvement, with the same being said for Watford’s Nordin Amrabat. This leaves 12 teams without at least one player until the tournament ends. But who is likely to be impacted the most by these absentees? I have used StrataData to investigate further, looking particularly at goals and chance creation, but first, here’s a complete rundown of the number of players missing from each team:


Three clubs instantly jump out, as Leicester, Stoke and Sunderland all lose three players each. Are they going to be the most affected from a statistical point of view, though? One could instantly make a case for Sunderland being hit hard, but this is purely on a squad depth basis, with David Moyes’ resources already at breaking point due to injuries even before the three absentees, two of whom have featured regularly and played quite well. However, from an offensive statistical point of view, Sunderland aren’t actually losing a great deal, with the trio of absentees having not contributed a single goal or assist between them all season, though admittedly both Ndong and Kone are defensive oriented.

From purely a goals perspective, Liverpool are one of the hardest hit, despite only losing one player. Sadio Mane is their top scorer this season in the Premier League with nine; nearly double that of any other player who is departing for the Africa Cup of Nations. Leicester’s Algerian pairing of Islam Slimani and Riyad Mahrez have contributed eight goals between them, while Crystal Palace’s Wilfred Zaha has chipped in with four of his own. It’s unsurprising that there is a correlation between playing time and goal output, but taken to a more granular level, Liverpool are losing an average of 0.45 goals per game through the absence of Mane, a number that could be significant to the team in the next month, and something that must not be overlooked when considering Liverpool on a betting front, particularly in the Asian Handicap and Total Goals markets.

Overall, 25 goals have been scored in the Premier League this season by those 21 players on international duty, but some naturally make a much greater impact with their absence. Interestingly, only five teams are losing any goal output by those missing, but Liverpool and Leicester are comfortably the most affected, with Leicester’s average being even with the Merseyside club courtesy of a solitary goal from Daniel Amartey, the third departure for Claudio Ranieri to deal with:


In Leicester’s case the absentees could indeed be argued as being more important, as Liverpool have amassed a far greater overall goal output this season, netting exactly double Leicester’s total (48 to 24) as of Round 20, the final round of games before players were required to link up with their international squads. Broken down, Liverpool are losing just under a fifth of their attacking output (18.75%) and in comparison to Leicester the number looks far more manageable, with the reigning champions now losing 37.5% of their goals total to the African Nations. So, in theory, Leicester will score at a much lower rate during this period, while Liverpool will suffer to a degree, but nowhere near the same level. The other teams are impacted far less, though Crystal Palace lose a fairly sizeable 13%, while Stoke and West Ham’s figures dip even more, suggesting they will be able to replace or compensate for their absentees far more comfortably.

Much has been made of Leicester’s dip in form this season and in particular that of Mahrez, and though that is indeed the case from the previous campaign, it appears the winger is still contributing to the cause to a degree that makes him difficult to replace adequately, something highlighted with his two goals for Algeria in their opening African Nations match:


With this in mind, Leicester suddenly become a less attractive prospect for Overs backers in the Total Goals market, with that amount of goals being incredibly hard to replace in such a short space of time, something that was evident in the previous round of fixtures where they drew a blank, albeit against a very stout Chelsea defence who have been keeping clean sheets for fun of late. Liverpool should have the firepower to cope with Mane’s absence, particularly with the return of Philippe Coutinho, but he will certainly be missed to enough of a degree that their goal output will suffer.

A further suggestion that Leicester are going to be the hardest hit comes from a glance at creation statistics amongst those missing, with the trio of absentees for Claudio Ranieri’s side contributing seven assists between them, close to a third of all goals scored, and a number exceeding that of any of the other club impacted by international call ups. Liverpool and Crystal Palace once again feature fairly heavily through the contributions of Mane and Zaha respectively, with the latter having made six goals on his own this season, being comfortably the most creative force in Sam Allardyce’s squad. Interestingly, the four leading scorers that make up this year’s African Nations contingent (Mahrez, Mane, Slimani and Zaha) are also the most creative, with Stoke’s Mame Biram Diouf the only other player to create more than a solitary goal before the international call up. A handful of other clubs are losing players with one assist to their name, but their impact is nominal:


Aside from actual assists however is chance creation, and of the list of those players departing for Africa, Mane once again tops the pile with 20 chances made. However, it’s not just the quantity of the opportunities he’s fashioned, also the quality, with seven of the 20 openings being considered either “Great” (40% conversion) or “Very Good” (25% conversion). This suggests that in terms of individual output, he will be the most sorely missed individual from the Premier League absentees, with no other coming close to matching the quality or quantity of his chance creation. This is not something Liverpool will want to be without as they try and sustain a title push and is something that could once again impact their ability to overcome pre-match betting handicaps.

So can we assume that aside from Leicester, Liverpool and Crystal Palace no teams are going to be impacted by the Africa Cup of Nations? Not really. Other teams have been hurt, albeit to a lesser degree. Arsenal for example, minus just Mohamed El Nenny, have been in strong goal scoring form whenever he is on the pitch, netting on average every 38 minutes. He’s only been a bit part player and doesn’t offer any consistent threat in the final third, but with injuries mounting up in midfield for Arsene Wenger’s side, his absence could have an effect on team balance. After Mane, who Liverpool average a goal scored every 36 minutes when he’s on the pitch, none of the other absentees see a goal scored with such regularity, but it’s unlikely either team will see goals dry up completely.

Going in the other direction, Everton can expect to be worse off and more vulnerable defensively without Idrissa Gueye, who has played more minutes than any of the African contingent heading to the tournament from the Premier League. In his 1668 minutes played this season, Everton are conceding at an average of one goal every 111 minutes, highlighting his importance to the team. While they have taken steps to replace him with the signing of Morgan Schneiderlin, and while they also managed to see off Man City so emphatically in the first weekend without him, his will certainly be an absence that is felt over time. He’s missed just one game in total this season but has been brought off on a couple of occasions, but what is notable is how big the shift is in the average time goals are conceded, with the side shipping a goal every 16.5 minutes without him. Admittedly five of those eight goals conceded when his absence came against a rampant Chelsea, but that game only went to further showcase his importance and could make Everton a bit more volatile in the Total Goals market. On top of his defensive significance, Gueye also stands out as the leading “Secondary Assist” maker of the 21 players absent, suggesting he has a far greater role in the build up to goals than he receives credit for (much like the superb N’Golo Kante last season).

Overall it would be fair to suggest that only a handful of clubs will be significantly hampered by the Africa Cup of Nations, but by and large the majority of those losing players won’t be harmed too much. Liverpool, Leicester and Crystal Palace stand out from the crowd as those who could suffer the most, particularly the former pair in terms of going forward, but it would be remiss to undervalue and discount the absence of Gueye at Everton, particularly from a defensive perspective and when considering trading over the coming weeks.

Alec Payne (@Payney3)

Weekend Review – 17/01/17


English Premier League
Manchester United 1-1 Liverpool (Sunday 4pm)
We expected that we’d see a similar game here to what we saw from their first meeting this season and it did largely pan out that way, despite Liverpool taking a relatively early lead thanks to Milner’s penalty following Pogba’s madness. If the contest was as close as the one at Anfield, the difference was that Liverpool edged this, much like United had edged it when they were the away side. Despite their poor team news and the drift to -0.5 on United before kick-off when it emerged Matip, Coutinho and Sturridge weren’t starting, Liverpool’s game plan was much more effective.

Klopp was furious that his team weren’t able to take maximum points, but the performance must have heartened him considering the amount of firepower he was missing. Mourinho was forced to resort to route one football to recover a point, and though you have to applaud him for having the bravery to go so direct and for the ploy to work, it did not make for handsome viewing in one of the marquee games on the calendar. Our pick of Manchester United -0.25 never looked likely to come off, while we were a little fortunate to only lose half.

Recommendation: Manchester United -0.25 @ 1.91
Actual Outcome: -0.5 (1-1)
Fair Outcome: -0.5 (1-1)

Spanish Primera Division
Sevilla 2-1 Real Madrid (Sunday 7.45pm)
This loss was much harder to take, as Real surrendered a 0-1 lead in the last five minutes of normal time despite never conceding anything more than a great chance to Sevilla. Indeed, the hosts only came out of this with an xG value of 0.6, despite the fact that they were behind for a quarter of the contest, although Real were hardly a creative force themselves and ended with a final value of 0.88. Still, our Analyst Fair Score had the outcome as a 0-1 to Zidane’s men, which would have given us a full win on our -0.25 pick.

As it was we ended up with a loser from a game that was played at great pace in a brilliant atmosphere, although the one small positive is that it throws open the La Liga title race and entrenches Sevilla as deserving holders of second place. Still, we would have liked Zidane to have made more intelligent use of his bench to preserve the win, as he ended the game with two substitutes unused.

Recommendation: Real Madrid -0.25 @ 1.78
Actual Outcome: -1 (2-1)
Fair Outcome: +1 (0-1)

English Premier League
Everton 4-0 Manchester City (Sunday 1.30pm)
Two of Everton’s young guns took the headlines here, as Davies and Lookman added late gloss to an excellent win for Koeman’s side. Manchester City’s fall from grace continued, with Guardiola almost admitting that his side were now out of the title race in his post-match interview. Fernandinho continues to be a huge, huge miss and a midfield combination of Toure and Zabaleta is always going to struggle with the intensity of games like this, offering next to no protection to a shaky back four.

Our prediction of Over 2.5 goals came in relatively easily, though our Analyst Fair Score had the contest at a much closer 2-1 with the xG values for each team being 1.05 and 2.04 respectively when not taking game state into account. Whichever way you slice it, this was an “overs” contest, but we really missed a trick not backing Everton as decent underdogs pre-match.

Recommendation: Over 2.5 @ 1.85Actual Outcome: +1 (4-0)
Fair Outcome: +1 (2-1)

English Premier League
Leicester City 0-3 Chelsea (Saturday 5.30pm)
Our confidence in this call took a little hit when news of Diego Costa’s absence broke late the night before, but we were quick to remember the Bournemouth game where he was missing and Chelsea produced a slick and fluid performance to win 3-0. The same result was repeated here, with Alonso finally making the most of getting into so many scoring positions and almost grabbing a hat-trick, while Pedro continued his resurgence with another goal. All of this added up to give us a half return from our double stake, but based on the Analyst Fair Score we were unlucky to not take this one all the way to the bank. The xG value was 0.52 to 1.28, with Chelsea fully deserving winners (again).

Recommendation: Chelsea -0.75 @ 1.89 and Under 2.75 @ 1.82
Actual Outcome: +0.5 (0-3)
Fair Outcome: +2 (0-2)

French Ligue 1
Olympique Marseille 1-4 Monaco (Sunday 8pm)
No such redemption from the Analyst Fair Score in this one, where we quickly learned that you never go against Monaco, and if you do you certainly never combine that with a trade against unders! On paper this looked a huge test for them, with Marseille having the best recent form in the division and being unbeaten at home all season, but they again passed with flying colours and again they scored four goals. Ultimately they showed no sign of a hangover following the winter break and look set to push PSG all the way for the title this season.

Recommendation: Marseille +0.25 @ 1.89 and Under 2.75 @ 1.89
Actual Outcome: -2 (1-4)
Fair Outcome: -2 (2-3)

Ones to Watch

Spanish Primera Division
Granada 1-1 Osasuna (Sunday 5.30pm)
Osasuna got a rare point on the board and generally edged a tense contest, with our feeling that a -0.5 line in such a tight game being well founded. Osasuna’s final xG value was almost double that of Granada, but the Analyst Fair Score agreed with the Actual Score regardless.

Recommendation: Osasuna +0.5 @ 1.92
Actual Outcome: +1 (1-1)
Fair Outcome: +1 (1-1)

English Championship
Burton Albion 0-2 Wigan Athletic (Saturday 3pm)
This relegation battle had a much clearer outcome, with Wigan deserved winners and the 0-1 Analyst Fair Score probably showing we were right to keep out of the Asian Handicap trading. Even a solid-looking Under 2.5 trade would have had lots of risk, with the total xG value equalling 2.42.

Recommendation: N/A
Actual Outcome: N/A (0-2)
Fair Outcome: N/A (0-1)

Italian Serie A
Lazio 2-1 Atalanta (Sunday 2pm)
We ended up with a bigger position on Over 2.5 than Atalanta +0.5 here, once late team news was confirmed and our models had been readjusted. That one paid out on both the Actual and Fair Score, but Atalanta were deserved losers on both to give us a -1 here.

Recommendation: Atalanta +0.5 @ 1.96
Actual Outcome: -1 (2-1)
Fair Outcome: -1 (2-1)

Turkish Super League
Osmanlispor vs. Besiktas (Monday 4pm)
Besiktas’ early goal set them on the way to beating the handicap here, with Osmanlispor competing but never creating enough chances to seriously look like making a comeback. Besiktas kept finding gaps the later it got and ended up as deserved winners, though the final score was a bit flattering.

Recommendation: Osmanlispor +0.25 @ 1.89
Actual Outcome: -1 (0-2)
Fair Outcome: -1 (1-2)

Greek Super League
Panathinaikos 0-0 AEK Athens (Sunday 5.30pm)
This result summed up both teams’ seasons, as both failed to capitalise on Olympiakos dropping points. Panathinaikos pushed and pushed but were denied by a supreme goalkeeping performance from Barkas, meaning we ended up with a loss instead of the win we should have had on the Analyst Fair Score.

Recommendation: Panathinaikos -0.5 @ 1.87
Actual Outcome: -1 (0-0)
Fair Outcome: +1 (1-0)

11 Recommendations
Total Actual Outcome: -4
Total Fair Outcome: +1.5

Weekend Preview -13/01/17


English Premier League
Manchester United vs. Liverpool (Sunday 4pm)
Jürgen Klopp and Jose Mourinho go head-to-head again after the Portuguese’s win on points at Anfield a little earlier this season, with a similar sort of game expected. This time around there is no doubt that United have more confidence and firepower, however, which means that a line of -0.25 looks fair from all angles. They deserve to be slight favourites on their overall supremacy this season using the basic averages, while they also have a good edge on the team news with Rojo and Bailly the only players missing.

Liverpool are going to have to adjust to life without Mane, who has been directly involved in 13 of their 48 goals (27%), but they can count on Henderson (1/48) and Coutinho’s (10/48) returns to dampen the blow. Matip being passed fit to play could be big, as he’s currently 50/50, while it would be remiss to ignore United’s extra day of rest and easier game against Hull in the EFL Cup. Most small factors are going the home side’s way and while we believe the goals line of 2.5 to be eminently fair it’s hard to resist the handicap. This should be a fantastic watch, both technically and tactically.

Recommendation: Manchester United -0.25 @ 1.91

Spanish Primera Division
Sevilla vs. Real Madrid (Sunday 7.45pm)
It’s not often that you write “first visit second in Spain” 20 games into the season about a fixture that doesn’t include two of Atletico, Barcelona and Real. Sevilla have crashed the party a little bit this season and these two sides will be fully acquainted with each other, having just come out of two legs of Copa Del Rey action where Madrid triumphed 3-6 on aggregate after a scare in Seville on Thursday evening. Leading 3-0 from the first leg and electing to rest Ronaldo, Modric and Benzema, among others, Zidane’s side found themselves 3-1 down before a late penalty from Ramos killed the hosts’ drive.

There is no significant team news to discuss, with Sevilla expected to be at full strength and Bale still the only absence of note for Real, which means that a line of -0.5 on the visitors looks reasonable. The goals look to be a little bit pumped up at 3.25, but not enough for us to see value, though we will back Zidane to make it 41 unbeaten.

Recommendation: Real Madrid -0.25 @ 1.78

English Premier League
Everton vs. Manchester City (Sunday 1.30pm)
The other game that Sky are handily bundling into “Merseyside vs. Manchester” lacks the pizazz of its sister act, but should still be a good watch between two teams who have flattered to deceive this season. Using the seasonal averages then a line of -0.25 on the visitors would be the starting point, with team news adjustments tipping it more heavily in their favour due to Everton being without Gueye and Bolasie.

City are hardly unscathed themselves, however, with Fernandinho’s ban and Fernando’s injury meaning Zabaleta could again be deployed in midfield. Gundogan and Kompany are also out, again, while the away side have the edges on the Actual Form and Fair Form when considering home and away distinctly. We like the idea of goals here, as 2.5 can be had for 1.85 and this is a mark they’ve beaten 55% of the time in their ten home/away games, respectively.

Recommendation: Over 2.5 @ 1.85

English Premier League
Leicester City vs. Chelsea (Saturday 5.30pm)
Another interesting Premier League encounter sees the 2015/16 Champions hosting the 2014/15 and probably 2016/167 Champions at the King Power. Leicester’s home supremacy actually outstrips Chelsea’s away supremacy by 0.1, which was a surprise to us, although after team news adjustments that see them losing Mahrez, Slimani and Amartey to the African Cup of Nations things tilt back in the direction of Conte’s side. Alonso is their only concern and is currently rated 50/50 to make it, with Ake on standby, while on recent Fair Form the visitors have another big indicator in their favour. We think a line of -0.75 on Chelsea is very fair, but feel 2.5 is pitched a bit too high on the goals, so we’ll go for a combination here.

Recommendation: Chelsea -0.75 @ 1.89 and Under 2.75 @ 1.82

French Ligue 1
Olympique Marseille vs. Monaco (Sunday 8pm)
Marseille are rejuvenated heading into 2017 with new ownership, a new manager and much improved league form. Monaco were the surprise package of the first part of the season with how much of an “overs” side they became, scoring a ridiculous 2.95 goals per game before the break. The team news is neutral here, with both sides missing their first choice left-backs, while Marseille edge the Actual Form and Fair Form over the last five. We’ll try another combination bet, believing that these lines should be DNB and 2.5 instead of +0.25 and 2.75. We don’t often go against Monaco…

Recommendation: Marseille +0.25 @ 1.89 and Under 2.75 @ 1.89

Ones to Watch

Spanish Primera Division
Granada vs. Osasuna (Sunday 5.30pm)
This huge relegation battle in Spain sees bottom travelling to second-bottom. The line is at -0.5 on Granada, which seems a little bit steep given that both sides have won only 1 in 5 at home and away respectively, while Osasuna have a manager boost and edge the team news.

Recommendation: Osasuna +0.5 @ 1.92

English Championship
Burton Albion vs. Wigan Athletic (Saturday 3pm)
Another huge relegation battle, this time in England’s second flight, as fourth-bottom host second-bottom. Burton have doubts over a usual starting striker and their key central midfielder, while Wigan are still without four regulars. There is little to split them other than home advantage, which isn’t enough to tempt us.

Recommendation: N/A

Italian Serie A
Lazio vs. Atalanta (Sunday 2pm)
These two teams are surprisingly in the mix for the Champions League spots past the halfway point of the season and both are missing an important first team player – Keita for Lazio and Kessie for Atalanta, which makes the team news fairly neutral. The market seems to be underestimating Atalanta.

Recommendation: Atalanta +0.5 @ 1.96

Turkish Super League
Osmanlispor vs. Besiktas (Monday 4pm)
Sixth host second in Turkey, with the Osmanlispor’s form making this look like a big banana skin for Besiktas and the market seemingly failing to take proper account of it. This looks like it should be DNB, but it’s very hard to argue with the Total Goals Line of 2.5.

Recommendation: Osmanlispor +0.25 @ 1.89

Greek Super League
Panathinaikos vs. AEK Athens (Sunday 5.30pm)
These two teams were expected to close the gap on Olympiakos this season, but that has not really come to pass. As such they are again left fighting for the runners-up spot and Panathinaikos have been finding form despite team news issues, which makes us comfortable in backing them here.

Recommendation: Panathinaikos -0.5 @ 1.87

*Odds accurate at time of writing

Does the league table still lie?

Around this time last season I wrote one of my favourite pieces for Trading Expert, looking at whether the English Premier League table “lied” in terms of where it placed teams.

The idea was to compare the Actual League Table with our Analyst Fair Score Table, in addition to our proprietary Model Fair Outcome Table, to see which teams had been over-achieving or under-achieving based on their general performances and key metrics.

The long and short of it is that the table did indeed “lie”.

However, to go a little deeper the big story was Leicester City leading the way, while then-champions Chelsea were floundering down in 14th. Our Analyst Fair Score table actually had Leicester in third, close behind Manchester City and Arsenal, while Chelsea were apparently fully deserving of their 14th rank. The Model Fair Outcome Table told a similar story, with Leicester again third behind Arsenal and Manchester City, while Chelsea were even worse off in 15th.

Funnily enough by the end of the campaign Leicester still led the way in one of the most remarkable Premier League seasons ever, while Chelsea’s change of manager helped them recover a little bit to finish tenth.

Anybody thinking that Liverpool being stuck in eighth after 15 games of the 2015/16 campaign was “wrong” were shown that they actually deserved to be 12th or ninth at that time, depending on whether you believed the analysts or the model, and in the end their below-par performance also held strong as they ended up still in eighth come mid-May. Southampton’s final position of sixth in the standings was also much more in line with their “fair” ranking from December, with the analysts having them seventh and the model sixth, versus their actual position at the time of 12th.

Before we dive into 2016/17, I want to finish on West Ham. The analytics community highlighted Slaven Bilic’s men last year for their over-performance in terms of goals versus shots, which our Model Fair Outcome Table mirrored by dropping them to 13th from the seventh place they actually held. That was the biggest single difference seen in the data, although the Analyst Fair Score Table pitched them at a more reasonable ninth. In the end West Ham actually did end up seventh, again highlighting that “mean reversion” can take more than a season of games to come to pass (something I’m always keen to remind people adamant that certain teams or players “can’t keep doing this every week”.)

My belief that the truest representation of the league comes from a combination of the Actual Table, Analyst Table and Model Table still holds true and that’s again how I want to approach this piece. However, this season we have worked hard to merge the Analyst Fair Score and the Model Fair Outcome together to give the most accurate Fair Scores possible. To this end I will only be using the Actual League Table and the Analyst Fair Score Table, which from here on out will simply be known as the Fair Score Table.

So without further ado, let’s begin with the Premier League table as it stands on Wednesday 11th January 2017, after each team has played 20 matches.

The Actual League Table


This season the top end is definitely lacking a “Leicester”, as the traditional top six has been fully restored. There won’t have been many predicting that any other teams would have been infiltrating the title race come the halfway point of 2016/17, and so it has proven. Everton in seventh is no great surprise, though their performances have been far from convincing despite the change of manager from Martinez to Koeman.

West Brom are the “average team” in the league this time around, which is translating to a very healthy position of eighth under Tony Pulis. He looked set to come under significant pressure this year, with worrying off the field stories compounding his general unpopularity with WBA supporters due to his desperately negative style. However, some shrewd transfer business in the summer (the signing of Matt Phillips especially, who always seems to produce) has allowed him to open up a little bit and while his team keep less clean sheets they also carry more threat.

Indeed, West Brom being where they are is perhaps the first mini surprise, while Bournemouth backing them up ahead of south coast rivals Southampton also raises a few eyebrows. I have to admit that I didn’t expect to find Burnley anywhere near 12th after 20 games (and still believe they will tumble), while West Ham, Leicester, Crystal Palace and Swansea are surely this campaign’s biggest underachievers to date with rankings of 13th, 15th, 17th and 19th respectively.

West Ham have been returning to more “normal” levels recently as they have recovered injured players, while Leicester’s general performances and metrics are on the up (although this is not yet being reflected in their rolling points haul). Palace and Swansea have moved to change managers in order to arrest their slide, Palace dispensing of the thoroughly detestable Alan Pardew far too late (did you see his record in 2016?) and Swansea making the bold play of hiring Bob Bradley and then getting cold feet very swiftly when an instant upturn was not forthcoming.

The general under-performance of this quartet has allowed Burnley to climb so high, while Watford’s position of 14th also looks “false” to me based on what I’ve seen of them this season. In addition, Middlesbrough have all the hallmarks of a team who had a little boost in the early part of the season after promotion but should probably be more involved in the relegation fight than they are.

Still, my opinions aside, just how does the Actual League Table match up with the Fair Score Table? Who has been benefitting from that mystical element called “luck” more than most and who is in dire need of a rabbit’s foot? Let’s find out…

The Fair Score Table


Unsurprisingly the top six holds steady, though Liverpool have gained an enormous three wins and seven points to displace Chelsea at the summit. Antonio Conte’s team have performed exactly as expected, which is possibly no surprise given the overall consistency of their professionalism and metrics following the switch to 3-4-3 (or 3-4-2-1, depending on how fastidious you are).

Manchester United are the biggest overall winners when the “fair” view is taken into account, gaining four wins and eight points to jump from sixth to third and being right in the race for the title. I dare say Jose Mourinho would enjoy this piece, and perhaps this particular revelation makes his continuing grumpiness a little easier to understand. He would be especially heartened to see his old rival Arsene Wenger being punished to the tune of losing two wins, five points and one place too, I’m sure.

Finally, to round off the top six we see Tottenham Hotspur drop a couple of places and points into fifth, while Man City gain a win and three points but hold firm in fourth. On the whole we see the range between the six teams expanding from ten points to fifteen thanks to Liverpool’s rise and Arsenal’s fall, which looks a bit too wide at this point in time.

However, the bigger issue I can see is that the dominance of the top six has been watered down somewhat, which does not really reflect what the season is increasingly telling us. As usual the big teams were the winners over the hectic festive period, asserting their dominance and pulling away further while nobody below sixth managed to take more than two wins from the four games played over Christmas and New Year.



In terms of trading the outright it seems that Chelsea are credible heavy favourites (1.89 at Betfair), because they are consistently getting what they deserve with their wins, while Liverpool (6.4) are displaying much more volatility and generally failing to earn the points that their performances and metrics deserve.

Arsenal (16.00) probably shouldn’t be considered (though is that really news to anybody?), while Man Utd (17.00) have given themselves too much to do but could be a firm shout for top four if they can improve their efficiency (which seems to be happening). Man City (8.40) are a disappointing fourth and at least six points off the top whichever way you slice it, which sounds about right given their performances, though of anybody they surely have the most room for improvement. Finally, Tottenham (12.50) have managed to get into third with a small amount of fortune on their side and with performances improving and star players coming into view again they look a serious shout for the Champions League spots, if not more.

Top Four

My personal view at this stage is that we’ll see Chelsea (1.05), Liverpool (1.37), Tottenham (1.71) and Man Utd (2.04) in the top four slots come the end (most likely in that order), with Man City (1.41) and Arsenal (1.91) missing out. Feel free to remind me of this if it all goes horribly wrong, of course, though I will throw in an injuries/transfers pending disclaimer here for good measure…

Top Ten

Moving onto the middle of the pack and the battle for top ten positions, it seems that Everton (1.08) are unsurprisingly the favourites to hold firm there in seventh. Our Fair Score Table has Southampton (1.36) in eighth, which I suppose is where most people would rate them if asked to rank all Premier League teams from 1-20, and despite the on-going troubles with Fonte and the chance of Van Dijk leaving to compound things they really should make that position their own. West Brom (1.69) drop one position to ninth because of Southampton’s gain of five points, but like Chelsea have been consistently getting what they deserve (except for the fact that they should have been involved in more “unders” games, which would surely please old Tony) and look a good shout to maintain this through until May.

Tenth position itself is increasingly tricky to gauge, with Bournemouth (2.00) surprise contenders, Stoke (2.92) always in the mix and potential comebacks from West Ham (3.75), Leicester (2.96) and maybe even Crystal Palace (18) to consider. The Fair Score Table does West Ham’s chances no favours by relegating them an enormous five places to 18th, docking them of four wins and eight points, but Stoke gain a fraction to climb to tenth at the expense of Bournemouth, who have apparently taken two more wins and three more points than they should have so far in 2016. Leicester have been the great enigma this season (I’m still not buying the mean reversion excuse alone, as it’s far too simplistic) and though they lose three points in the Fair Score Table they actually gain a place to land in 14th, mainly due to the apparent over-performance of others.

My personal view here is that Everton and Southampton should be certainties, unless Southampton lose both centre-backs and fail to acquire even semi-adequate replacements, while West Brom show no signs of slipping and should hold on to ninth or tenth. After that it probably comes down to Stoke, who have been consistently average enough despite dealing with a number of key absences at different times. I can’t see a team who start Simon Francis every week (as captain, no less) maintaining a top ten place, while I won’t even count Burnley, Watford or Middlesbrough in this despite the fact Watford and Middlesbrough both come out higher in the Fair Score table.

Middlesbrough gain four places despite taking just two extra points, but should actually have a worse goal difference by virtue of deserving to score three less than their paltry actual total of 17. This is the main reason I want to consider Middlesbrough as part of the clutch of teams who will be fighting relegation, along with Watford, Burnley, Sunderland, Swansea and Hull.


Jumping straight to Burnley, I mentioned earlier that I would never have expected to see them in 12th after 20 games and I’m not surprised to see them dropping five places in the Fair Score Table, by virtue of giving away three wins and six points (a reduction second only to West Ham). They have taken exactly what they have deserved when away (a solitary point) but are clearly over-performing at home. If their home points tally dries up even slightly then they will tumble into trouble quickly. Watford, like Middlesbrough, actually appear higher in the Fair Score Table despite losing three points, while Sunderland are also punished by the same amount but fall to 20th, behind Hull who only lose a solitary point and climb to 19th.

Swansea should apparently be three points and three places better off, which may well have kept Bradley in a job had it come to pass, though this does point to the fact that Paul Clement should have plenty to work with as he bids to do far, far better than his predecessor. Ultimately there is little hope to be found for Hull (1.20) or Sunderland (1.54), who both come out worse off in terms of points and still look to be heavy favourites for the drop in 19th and 20th, though like with the last spot available in the top ten it’s an arduous task to pinpoint who joins them in 18th.

West Ham (16.50) occupy that position in the Fair Score Table but I cannot believe Bilic’s men will be anywhere near come May, which leaves the other three teams I mentioned earlier. Swansea (1.59) should have the quality to climb, though sensible January recruitment looks important after their shameful summer in the market, leaving Burnley (4.50), Middlesbrough (6.60) and Watford (7.20) in the firing line.

Watford are clearly where the value is, but despite my exasperation with their points haul they probably have enough to steer clear, putting it down to Burnley’s home form versus Middlesbrough’s away form. As this is a Fair Score blog, then Middlesbrough’s performance here must swing it so I’ll add Burnley as the third team to go down, although as with most seasons it’s still a nightmare to call at this stage! Some smart January business could be the difference between life and death down here, though it seems the die have been cast on the managerial front.


Finally, let me sign off with a table to show the average of the Actual League Table and the Fair Score Table, which is probably where the truth lies:


This supports my feelings that we’ll end up with Chelsea as Champions and Man Utd in the top four, while the entire top ten is in line with my view as a whole. The main differences are that Man City have usurped Tottenham in the Champions League spots, while Swansea have joined Sunderland and Hull in being cast into the abyss instead of Burnley. However, armed with the knowledge that Swansea and Crystal Palace have changed manager, plus the belief that West Ham and Leicester will improve enough in the second part of the season to move comfortably into mid-table, Burnley are handily pulled right back into the mire…

Many thanks for reading, and while you may not agree with my outlook I at least hope the use of our Fair Score Table has given you some indicators as to where the market might be overrating or underrating teams based on actual historical performance instead of fair historical performance, both in terms of Asian Handicaps and Total Goals Lines. As always when looking at realised data, not everything is as it seems.

Richard Huggan (@AnalysisRich)

Trading corners in the Premier League

Thanks for joining me on the latest part of my football data-science journey! I hope you found my previous two blogs useful, where we investigated Goals and xGoals (Expected Goals) over 15-minute time segments of a Premier League match. This time around, I’m going to look at corners over the course of the 2016/17 season so far, with a view to helping make your corner trading this weekend more profitable.

My hope is that you’ll be able to apply what we’ve found through our rigorous StrataData analyses to your own trading, even if you’re only entering the corners market for the first time. With this in mind I’m going to be looking both at the number of corners teams have gained and conceded so far this season, alongside each team’s expected corner (xCorner) metrics. This will further help us understand how differently a team is performing versus expectation. In addition to this, we’ll also be able to find trends over the team’s last 10 games (either at home or away) and once again I’m going to pick three games that will be broadcasted live this weekend to look at in more detail.

As mentioned above, I’ll be using xCorners to identify when teams are over-performing or under-performing versus expectation. You may have seen us use expected goals in our previous blogs, and in the same light xCorners simply indicates the number of corners a team is expected to have based on the number of key entries they make.

If you need a refresher on what key entries are and how we collect them at Stratagem, I’d strongly encourage you to read one of my colleague Rich’s earlier blogs. However, to give a brief explanation: a key entry is an instance where the attacking team achieves possession of the ball in the last 18 yards of the pitch where they are attacking. This is further classified by the location on the pitch where the team achieved possession (either “right”, “left” or “box”) and also the method of the key entry (either  “pass”, “run”, “turnover” or “shot”).

We have calculated that the average team in our database wins a corner once in about every 5 key entries (0.22 corners per key entry). We then used this number to multiply against the amount of key entries a team makes in a match. So the more key entries a team has, the greater their number of xCorners would be, whereas the fewer key entries a team has, the lower their xCorners would be. For instance, in Tottenham’s last home match against Chelsea, they had 19 key entries. To calculate their xCorners, we can multiply 19 by 0.22 to give us an xCorner value of 4.18. In actuality Tottenham only had one corner in that match, so greatly underperformed against expectation!

So, let’s jump straight into the first fixture and put this simple way of calculating xCorners into practice:

Tottenham Hotspur vs. West Bromwich Albion (Saturday 12.30pm on Sky Sports 1)


Staying with Tottenham, they will surely be looking forward to hosting West Brom this coming Saturday considering their good form of late. Indeed, investigating Tottenham’s corner data unearths some rather interesting patterns.

Looking across Tottenham’s fixtures this season (top-left graphic), the number of corners they have won seems to fluctuate greatly, with an average of 6.7 and standard deviation (SD) of ±3.95. Although they are winning more than the league average of 5.49 corners, Tottenham’s fluctuation is highlighted when compared to the league’s SD of ±0.57. Diving a bit deeper into the data, we can see that against the somewhat “smaller” teams when they will be heavy favourites in the 1X2 market, they tend to rack up the corners. The two peaks in the top-left graphic show 14 corners against Sunderland (a 1-0 home win in fixture number 3) and 11 corners against Burnley (a 2-1 home win in fixture number 9), whereas against Manchester City they only had 4 (a 2-0 home win in fixture number 4) and against Chelsea they only had 1 (a 2-0 home win in fixture number 10).

This trend is further highlighted when we look at their xCorners, as against Sunderland when they racked up those 14 corners they should have actually only had ~9 corners. These came from their 43 key entries during that game, whereas against Chelsea (fixture number 10), they only managed 19 key entries, giving them 4 xCorners (although still 3 more than what they actually won!) So whilst they still won these fixtures, it maybe sensible to look at their opposition before deciding whether to place a trade over or under on the 2-way market!

West Brom on the other hand have a smaller SD of ±2.53, conceding an average of 5.2 corners so far away from home this season. Whilst this is better than what they are expected to be conceding (6.18 ±1.71), their fixture-by-fixture pattern appears more steady than Tottenham’s, with only one stand out ‘blip’ against Arsenal in fixture 9 (top right graphic) where they allowed Arsenal to rack up 45 key entries generating ~10 xCorners compared to the 6 Arsenal had.

Having investigated both teams’ corner patterns this season, a two-way corner line of 11.5 initially seems to be fitting for this fixture. However, given Tottenham’s propensity to over-perform at home when they are the favourites, and West Brom’s relatively consistent behaviour, a line of 12.5 is more reasonable. A sensible trade on this fixture’s corner market would be to back under if the market line is greater than 1 above this projection (under 14), or over if the line is greater than 1 below this projection (over 11).

Leicester City vs. Chelsea (Saturday 5.30pm on BT Sport 1)


Champions Leicester City host Antonio Conte’s Chelsea at the King Power Stadium on Saturday, with the visitors looking to maintain their strong lead at the summit of the Premier League. Leicester’s rate of winning corners so far this season has been steady (top-left graphic), averaging 4.5 corners at home with a SD of ±2.12. Their average xCorners of 4.64 (±1.15) highlights this impressive level of consistency so far this season. We can expect the home side to maintain their status quo against Chelsea on Saturday, as Chelsea so far this season are conceding 4.4 (±3.31) corners away from home, with an xCorner average of 4.53 (±1.69).

Chelsea’s ability to win corners away (bottom-left graphic) tells us a similar story, as they are averaging 4.6 (±2.91) corners, and 6.49 xCorners (±1.58) so far this season. However, they may look to take advantage of Leicester’s inability to keep teams out of their 18 yard area, as Leicester are conceding slightly more corners at home on average than would be expected of them (5.9 versus 5.43).

This fixture on the whole looks steadier than West Brom’s visit to White Hart Lane, with both teams boasting a relatively small SD in both corners and xCorners. A two-way corner line of 10 would be fitting, even after considering both teams’ xCorners, so a trade under anything above this wouldn’t be unwise.

Manchester United vs. Liverpool (Sunday 4.00pm on Sky Sports 1)


Sunday brings to us one of football’s biggest rivalries, when Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United side host Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool. United’s ability to win corners at home (top-left graphic) appears unsteady – caused partly by an enormous peak at fixture 5. They are averaging 8.5 (±5.02) corners and 7.33 (±1.83) xCorners at home this season. However, what strikes me here is the difference in consistency between actual corners and xCorners (the SDs for actual and xCorners is ±1.83 vs. ±5.02).

Whilst United have looked to push on in matches, it’s not always the case that this translates to the number of corners they win. For instance, in fixture number 4 against Stoke City they won 13 corners, but were expected to win only 7 given the 32 key entries they had. Despite this increased rate of corner production, they only managed a 1-1 draw. Similar is their story against Burnley in the very next fixture (number 5), where they amassed a monumental 19 corners, but were only expected to win ~10 corners (9.68) based on the 44 key entries they had. Again they only managed a draw, 0-0 this time, pointing to significant inefficiency in their attacking play. Indeed, when United have won fewer corners than expected, they’ve actually won the game. Against Tottenham Hotspur (fixture number 8), they won only 3 corners but were expected to win 6 (rounding up from 5.72) from their 26 key entries and managed to win 1-0. This is true again in their next fixture against Sunderland (fixture number 9), where they won 5 corners but were expected to win 8 (from their 35 key entries) and won the game 3-1.

United will be looking to break into Liverpool’s 18 yard area further on Sunday, despite Liverpool showing a gritty ability to not concede many corners away from home (usually due to being the favourites). Liverpool average conceding only 3.10 (±1.85) corners so far this season, and are only expected to concede 3.67 (±1.27) corners. Irrespective of which United side turn up, it seems as though Liverpool will put up a mean defence of their 18 yard line, largely through their high pressing game and forcing turnovers higher up the pitch.

Whilst Liverpool maybe good at keeping teams on their favoured side of the line, they also show an ability to win corners at the other end. Liverpool are averaging 6.4 (±3.24) corners so far this season, but perhaps should be doing better, as they are expected to win ~7 (±1.21) corners per game. Given that United are only expected to concede 4 (±1.37) corners per game on average, this part of the pitch will truly play a key role in determining the number of corners in this game. Like in the more traditional markets, the game will likely be decided by the effectiveness of Liverpool’s press and United’s ability to bypass it by playing a more direct style.

The higher number of corners on average so far this season for both teams, given their style of play, suggests a corners line of 11.5 maybe fair, but given how closely matched the teams are in terms of ability and because neither should be able to dominate to their usual degree this line should be set nearer the 10.5 mark. The volatility of a derby-type game increases the deviation of corners, which become hugely dependent on intent and game state, but as a deadball view we would seek to back anything under a line of 12 or greater to begin with.


My hope for this post is that not only will it provide some interesting data driven observations for those of you who enjoy trading corners (or are looking to do so), but also highlight where teams are over-performing and under-performing relative to the number of corners they win/concede.

We can see that if you’re planning on trading over or under in a Tottenham match, it’s most important to look out for whom they are playing against, as this appears to dictate their corner stats more than any other factor. Both Leicester and Chelsea have been relatively consistent with their corners this season, so we can potentially expect both to maintain their status quo in a match totalling less than 10. On the other hand, Manchester United are somewhat less easy to predict, as their performances vary wildly along with their chance conversion metrics, even given their relatively consistent xCorner trend.

Until next time,

Sagar Jilka (@DrSagarJilka)

(P.S. Here’s the table of averages and standard deviations for all the teams discussed above – hopefully it will inform any decisions made this weekend!)